Know Your Options: Different Types of Colleges

There are many types of higher education institutions that students should look into when applying to college. The most well-known types of schools are 4-year universities, but did you know 40% of undergraduates attend community college? Have you ever heard of trade or vocational schools? Check out the information below to help you decide which type of school is right for you.

Four-Year Colleges and Universities

Many students choose to go to traditional four-year colleges or universities. These generally lead to a bachelor's degree, and can be broken down into two categories: liberal arts colleges and universities.
  • Liberal Arts Colleges: Typically, students enrolled at a liberal arts college study courses in literature, philosophy, history, languages, mathematics, humanities, and social and natural sciences. These schools tend to be small, private and without a graduate school.
  • Universities: Universities are generally larger and have a variety of degree options available. Many times, universities will contain several colleges within that campus that you may have to apply to specifically. Universities often have graduate schools as well, and you can earn a master's or doctoral degree as well as a bachelor's.
  • Benefits to a Four-Year Education:
    • People often change career choices, so certification programs in specific areas may not be ideal. Instead, a broader degree can lead to many different careers.
    • There are huge learning opportunities on and off campus. Four-year institutions often provide students with amazing opportunities to get involved around campus and in the community.
    • The academic quality is generally higher.
    • Students can earn a bachelor's degree faster than if they first attend a different type of institution.
    • For students who have no idea what they want to study, most four-year schools allow them to explore different areas before choosing their major.

Community Colleges and 2-Year Colleges

Community colleges are the most common type of two-year colleges. They are designed to prepare you to continue your education or to enter the workforce immediately upon graduation. They offer some types of associate degrees that allow you to transfer to a four-year college to earn a bachelor's degree. Other types of associate degrees and certificates focus on career readiness. They charge relatively low tuition to in-state residents and many students save even more money by living at home. Financial aid is available, but because tuition is less expensive, it is usually low. More than 40% of undergraduate students attend community college, usually aged 18 to 24. Many times, working adults, retirees, and other adults who want to learn also attend community college, either full or part-time.

  • Average price: less than $3,000 a year for tuition and fees
  • Benefits to a Two-Year Education:
    • Can prepare you to transfer to a four-year college
    • Can prepare you to enter the workforce sooner
      • You can earn a certificate or degree in a career-oriented field
    • Open admission
      • You can go to college even if your high school transcript isn't strong
      • You can try college to see if you're ready
  • Flexible, convenient schedule
    • Can attend full time or part time
    • Schedule courses around home and work commitments
    • There's a campus within a short driving distance of almost every town in the US
  • Can explore different subjects before committing to a program without having to be too concerned about tuition costs
  • Can remain close to home
  • Wide variety of activities and sense of community, even if students don't live on campus

Trade and Vocational Schools

If you already know exactly what industry or career you want to enter, then a trade or vocational school may be for you! These schools don't require you to take classes in a broad range of subjects; instead, you focus only on your area of interest (such as culinary arts or dental hygiene). Upon completion of your program, you receive a certificate or an associate degree.

Benefits to a Trade or Vocational School Education:
  • You can have a successful career and get the training necessary, without needing a college degree
  • Often times, schools provide you with hands-on work in your field
  • You can always transfer to a four-year institution if you desire
  • Employment rate is extremely high: 97% after graduation, with over 80% in the field of their certificate
  • Students only have to study subjects that apply to their field of interest

After you've decided which type of school is right for you, check out all of the awesome scholarships we have to offer!

Source: CollegeBoard, 2011.
For the full article about different types of schools, check it out here.
Source: CollegeBoard, 2011.
For the full article about community colleges, check it out here.
Source: Continuing Education by Suite 101, August 10, 2008.
For the full article about vocational and trade schools, check it out here.